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Responsibility in Website Administration and the Downfall of Uber

Unethical Behaviors Highlight the Need for Change

These last few months, we’ve written quite a bit about the importance of internet security, an online culture of secure behaviors, and the part companies’ website administration decisions play in the future of safety for their customers.  This week yet another historic moment for business in the internet age occurred; Uber was revealed to have paid hackers to cover up a breach of driver and customer security.  The fallout from this revelation is two-fold; customers are scared for their data, and the world of business is shocked that such an unethical choice was made by one of the tech industry’s most famous success stories.  

 

In October of 2016, hackers successfully breached Uber’s servers stealing over 600,000 driver’s license numbers and approximately 50 million emails, names, and phone numbers.  While a hack of this magnitude would have been stunning enough, what Uber did next was what makes this event unfortunately historic.  Instead of following their legal duty to report the breach, Uber instead paid hackers to erase the stolen data and keep the breach secret.

 

For those plugged into tech news, this year has been an exhausting parade of negative precedents, the ramifications of which include consumers being rightfully hesitant to trust companies with their data and business.  Business must go on, though, so how can businesses operating primarily online learn from and avoid the pitfalls of companies like Uber, Yahoo, and Equifax?  The answer lies in responsible website administration and making decisions about corporate websites with the consumer’s perspective in mind.

Be Open, Be Real, Be Successful

One of the most solid takeaways from the Uber breach is the incredible importance of communication with consumers in preserving trust and business.  While this could seem more like the responsibility of a PR department, it actually begins with responsible website administration.  Choosing to be open, up-front, and communicative from the get-go, whether through design choices, like a privacy policy landing page or through policy choices, like utilizing HTTPS and not over-relying on cookies, can lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship with customers and website visitors that will survive any possible emergencies.

 

Informed customers should be able to know how their data is being handled, and, because of the high-profile security related controversies that have transpired this year, more and more internet users are adopting new, apprehensive browsing habits.  There are no quick tricks or shortcuts, not that those would be good to implement anyway.  The only way to stand out as a trustworthy online company these days is to adopt website administration policies based on old-fashioned, ever-reliable trust.  

If businesses give customers reasons to trust them, they will win those customers’ faith.  If companies are honest and straightforward with their web policies and security choices, customers will not only be empowered to make more meaningful choices but will also be prepared in the case of an emergency.

 

Uber’s decision to hide its security breach didn’t just break faith with their customers and drivers but also didn’t even solve the problem.  The data had still been taken, and their site was no safer.  Choosing to work with customers means increasing the effectiveness of all post-incident security measures.  

 

While many preventative measures can be taken, there is always the risk that a breach occurs out of the control of an online company.  For example, imagine an eCommerce site that utilizes JavaScript-based product displays.  If a vulnerability was overlooked in the JavaScript display tool that led to a security breach, the company couldn’t have prevented that (unless they themselves made the tool.)  However, if this eCommerce company has established communication with its customers, it can immediately notify them of a potential breach and the basic details of the breach.  This will allow customers to react in tandem to the company in securing data, avoiding sites using the tool, and in preparing for possible abuse of their data.

The Future Is Open

Consumers online are more informed than ever, and information moves faster than any time in the past.  Trusting customers with a view into the company behind their products is not only advisable, it’s necessary.  In many ways, having a transparent, cooperative, and respectful strategy for website administration is the new equivalent of being proud enough of your business to run tours of the workplace.  Instead of visiting the kitchen or touring a manufacturing floor, customers are looking at your security certificates, your privacy policies, and the tools and plugins you use.

 

While not all products need to meet Free-and-Open-Source-Software (FOSS) guidelines, some lessons can be gained from the many communities that embrace FOSS.  Mainly, though, is the fact that customers treated with trust largely treat that trust with respect, often gaining a sense of ownership and responsibility for their use of a product and partnership with its creators.  This, too, can be applied to businesses online.  

 

Customers who feel welcome and trusted are more likely to spend less time thinking about how they could be at risk and more time thinking about things they like, bugs they encounter, or even vulnerabilities they discover themselves.  Such customers provide priceless feedback in addition to goodwill and good business.  

 

Are you looking to rework your corporate website?  Do you want to embrace a more secure, more communicative design philosophy?  We would like to help.  Come visit us today at www.nixa.ca, and see how our passionate professionals can help you get the website your customers want to visit.

At Nixa, we are passionate about design and new technologies. We would be glad to share our passion with you.

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